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In my line of work, I spend lots of time meeting people from various companies. Often, especially when the companies are tech companies, my counterpart will be Indian. One useful skill in working with people from different cultures is having a solid understanding of how those other cultures work, and where they differ from your own.

One aspect I've noticed of the Indian culture is a very different view toward humility from an American mentality. Americans, and even more so Europeans, will tend to introduce themselves as "good but not that good", "successful but not that successful", and often shy away from directly discussing their skills and accolades, even when they're far superior to those of others. It would seem that Indian culture, however, allows for a far more direct approach when discussing skills and accolades.

One meeting started with my counterpart introducing himself as a "winner of award X, which is the most prestigious award in Y, and founder of the most advanced Z company, which has raised 2.5 million in venture capital". Another started rather matter-of-factly with "I graduated from university X, the most selective technical university in India, after receiving the top score in the Indian college placement exam". Many meetings go the same way, which tends to cause confusion and difficulty for people from my side of the call, as being so direct about one's skills and successes tends to be a trait we're not very used to.

I'd like to ask the most appropriate way in Indian culture to respond to these direct statements of one's achievements, whether to congratulate someone, or act impressed, or act unimpressed, or ignore the statements, or something else. Also, is this trait specific to the tech industry, or the youth, or is it a general trait? How is this trait viewed in India?

  • I also interact with a lot of Indians on a daily basis and I've never noticed that they do this. Maybe the Indians I've personally worked with, just so happen to have nothing to "brag" about. – notmySOaccount Sep 21 at 3:46
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    I am from Europe and this sounds exactly like the Americans in Workplace Stack Exchange. – guest Sep 22 at 11:48
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    Many times, I have noticed that Americans are too proud of their accomplishments, regardless of size. The behavior you noticed is related to individuals, not to nations. – Farhan Sep 22 at 13:39
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Most likely, these young people are trying to impress you. Maybe they are feeling intimidated by your status (of being an American or a European). (We, Indians, subconsciously (and at times consciously) feel that Americans or Europeans or Australians are better than us.) So, maybe these young people are trying to tell you that they too have quality and that the interactions would be on an equal footing.

And it's a very youth specific thing. That too in engineering only. Older accomplished Indians in tech know better.

Also, you can simply ignore these statements and talk to the point. The idea, I guess, was to tell you about the stature and not really seek congratulations in return.

If people talk like this to fellow Indians, it's frowned upon. It's considered boastful. So, people don't do that. This torture is reserved for foreigners only :D.

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    "interactions would be on an equal footing" -- yep. It's a classic, if somewhat clumsy, reaction to having been talked down to once too often. At work, I tend to overemphasise the "Dr" in front of my name for the same reason when dealing with a bunch of guys that I've never met before. (And I'm not Indian, just female in a male dominated field.) – Marianne013 Sep 25 at 15:21

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